Published Online Books
A Theological Pilgrimage
The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today
The Pentecostal Reality
Published Online Writings
Prophecy by the Book
Scripture: God's Written Word
The Holy Spirit in the Early Church
We come finally to a consideration of the effects or results of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our concern is not so much with long-range effects, though they are certainly not excluded, as with the immediate results of the Spirit being given. A number of these may be noted.
Further, the God who comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit is the triune God. Hence, though it is the Spirit who is given—and thus not the same personally as Father or Son—nonetheless His very presence also makes real other persons of the Godhead. He constantly points to, glorifies, makes real the Son, the exalted Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit the exalted Lord constantly makes Himself known to His believing people. Jesus Christ, though now at the "right hand" of the Father and not bodily present, becomes spiritually present among those who believe in Him. Likewise, the Holy Spirit makes real God as Father, for it is through the Spirit's indwelling and moving presence that the fatherhood of God takes on more intimate and personal meaning. By the Spirit we say "Abba! Father!" not as address to a distant deity but as the cry of the heart to one near at hand.1 To summarize: the reality of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is vividly disclosed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As we turn again to the books of Acts, it is apparent that the reality of God is the paramount fact in everything that occurs. When the Spirit is given at Pentecost, the company immediately begins to declare the marvelous works of God and thus to exult in His wonderful presence. It matters not that thousands are gathered around them, for so full are they of God's Spirit that they go right on praising Him. The reality of God's presence has gripped them as a community, as individuals, and in such fashion that in all that follows they sense God moving in their midst.
For example, in the case of Peter's ministry it is clear that the reality of God's presence pervades everything. In his message to the large Jewish audience in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-39) he speaks of God with authority, of Jesus Christ with the assurance of personal knowledge, of the Holy Spirit with the certainty of profound experience. He later pronounces healing in the name of Jesus Christ as in the name of one who powerfully and personnally present (Acts 3:6), and "filled with the Holy Spirit" he does not hesitate to proclaim salvation even to the rulers, elders and high priests (Acts 4:8-12). So real is the presence of God in the community of believers that Peter declares that to lie about a certain matter is to lie against God—"You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:4). Further, the witness of Peter and the others about Jesus is known by them to be a co-witness with the Holy Spirit—"We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given" (Acts 5:32). Also, the Holy Spirit, prior to Peter's going to Caesarea, speaks directly and personally to him—"the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down, and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them'" (Acts 10:19-20).
Likewise, from the outset of Paul's ministry there is a compelling sense of God's reality. The personal self-disclosure of the risen and exalted Lord to Saul of Tarsus—"I am Jesus" (Acts 9:5) and the ensuing experience of being "filled with the Holy Spirit" (9:17) made of Saul a man whose life and activity thereafter were dominated by the reality of God's living presence. "Immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, 'He is the Son of God'" (9:20); and this proclamation, like all else Paul thenceforward did, stemmed from the indubitable certainty of God's pervading presence and action. One telling illustration of the presence of God in Paul's missionary activity is that wherein the apostle (with Timothy) is led by the Holy Spirit to cross over from Asia Minor into Europe. First, he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia," and, second, when he purposed to go in another direction, "the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" (Acts 16:6-7). Therein is unmistakable testimony to the reality of the divine presence and direction in whatever Paul did. Throughout Paul's ministry there is a continuing sense of the activity of the Holy Spirit.2
The book of Acts is the record of a church intensely aware of the presence of God. When the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch meet together, the Holy Spirit is markedly present—"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'" (Acts 13:2). When the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem convene to make a decision about the matter of Gentile circumcision, they send a letter which includes the words: "it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden" (Acts 15:28). Throughout, it is a church—whether in Jerusalem, Antioch, or elsewhere—moving and acting in the reality of God's spiritual presence.
The book of Acts, accordingly, is far more than the acts of men—or "Acts of the Apostles."3 For though men are everywhere involved, it is basically the acts of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit that stand forth. God is present in a compelling manner; the sense of His presence and action is markedly known and experienced. All that happens finds its source and direction from Him. That God is real is the basic fact in the life of the early Christian community.
Now what has been said about the experienced reality of God in the early church is again being confirmed in the contemporary movement of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual breakthrough is occurring wherein people are being made profoundly aware of the divine presence. Through the outpoured gift of the Holy Spirit, God in His divine reality is manifesting Himself. That God is real is being affirmed by countless thousands, not as simply an affirmation of distant faith, but of vivid, undeniable experience.
Living in a day of the "absence" of God—the "eclipse" of God, even the "death" of God4—this spiritual breakthrough is a tremendous fact.5 For the unreality of God has become the actual situation for vast numbers of people. This is the case not only for the secular world but quite often for people inside the church. It is a matter of the Real Absence rather than the Real Presence. Often even when the gospel is preached, the Bible fully accepted as the Word of God, the sacraments regularly shared in, there is little spiritual vitality. This may be the case also for churches that lay much stress on evangelistic and missionary activity; there is little spiritual vitality. This may be the case also for churches that lay much stress on evangelistic and missionary activity; there is little excitement about the presence of the living God in the midst of His people. But now through the outpouring of God's Spirit, all is changing for many persons: there is spiritual rejuvenation, renewal—an overwhelming sense of the divine presence.6 For God is possessing His people in a profound manner, pervading the heights and depths of creaturely existence, even through the conscious to the subconscious life, and becoming the recognized primary actor in all that takes place.
Thus the community of believers, experiencing the divine visitation, is becoming much like the early church. As at Pentecost, people are declaring with full fervor the mighty works of God, they are witnessing to the gospel with tremendous enthusiasm and boldness, and signs and wonders are occurring on every hand. They are looking to the Holy Spirit for a "Thus saith the Lord," and like Peter, Paul, and others, they are hearing a word and moving by divine direction. When God is real and powerfully present, all of life is set in a different key—and the church becomes afresh the church of the living God.
Second, another effect of the gift of the Holy Spirit is fullness of joy. Wherever the Holy Spirit is received there is a great upsurge of joy. Sometimes the joy is so great as to be almost uncontainable. In the language of 1 Peter 1:8 it may be "joy unspeakable and full of glory."7
Indeed, this deep joy is further demonstrated in an entirely different setting where the apostles, having already been put in jail, are now beaten and charged by the Jewish high council not to speak further in the name of Jesus. "Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:41). Hence the joy that they, along with many others, had experienced on the Day of Pentecost was not only a joy related to favorable circumstances, but also one that continued in the midst of persecution and disrepute. It was the great rejoicing about which Jesus spoke when He told His disciples: "Blessed are you when men hate you and revile you …on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day and leap for joy …" (Luke 6:22-23). Truly this is fullness of joy!
Returning to the book of Acts we find several other accounts where joy, or rejoicing, is mentioned. First, just following the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip, the Scripture reads: "And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39). Second, at Iconium, "The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52). Third, the Philippian jailer who had come to faith in the Lord Jesus and was baptized thereafter "rejoiced greatly,11 having believed in God with his whole household" (Acts 16:34 NASB). In all of these accounts, joy is closely connected with the Holy Spirit, quite possibly as an immediate effect of the gift of the Holy Spirit.12
Beyond Acts we may also observe, first, how Paul writes the Thessalonians that they "received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 1:6). That the Thessalonians had received the gift of the Holy Spirit is apparent from Paul's prior words: "Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Hence, the "joy inspired by the Holy Spirit" came out of the fullness of their experience of the Holy Spirit—a joy that even amid "much affliction" broke forth. The result, Paul adds: "you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achais" (1 Thessalonians 1:7). Second, Paul writes the Romans, praying: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Romans 15:13). "All joy" comes out of God's "filling," out of "the power of the Holy Spirit."
The fullness of joy expressed by these various Scriptures is being exemplified across the world in the contemporary outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Many who have received the gift of the Spirit attest that one of the immediate effects is an intensity of joy. Often the experience is that of an inner movement of the Holy Spirit wherein the whole being is flooded with joy.13 There is about this joy something quite different, or other, than ordinary joy or happiness: it is the joy of the Lord. In one popular chorus, based on 1 Peter 1:8, the wording goes: "It is joy unspeakable and full of glory, and the half has never yet been told!"
Further, this is a joy which thereafter may have its ups and downs, but regardless of what occurs in the life of faith it continues as a wellspring ever bubbling up and overflowing. Jesus also said about the joy which He promised His disciples that "no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22). So it is: since this joy is fulfilled through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this joy is the Lord's own joy, nothing can take it away. It is joy everlasting. Surely the words of Isaiah are appropriate: "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads" (Isaiah 51:11).
Third, still another effect of the gift of the Holy Spirit is that of providing an assurance of God’s act of salvation. The Holy Spirit bears witness to what has been done, confirms the status of sonship and God’s abiding presence and affords an earnest or pledge of what is yet to come.
It is significant that on two occasions (Acts 11 and 15) after the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Caesareans, or the Gentiles, Peter appears before the Jerusalem council of apostles and brethren to argue the Gentile cause. On each occasion Peter refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit which the Gentiles had likewise received as a kind of confirmation or witness. In the first instance the question basically was whether the Gentiles really were included in God’s purpose of salvation, and Peter’s argument was simply that “the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning” (11:15). Further, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us [believing]14 in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (11:17). This silenced the audience; then “they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life’” (11:18). The fact that God had given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles was certification to the apostles and brethren that the Gentiles had indeed been granted salvation. On the second occasion, Peter stands again before the council to argue against the obligation of Gentiles to be circumcised in order to be saved. In the context of this argument Peter speaks of how it was God’s choice that “by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe” (15:7). Then Peter immediately adds: “And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith”15 (15:8-9). Here the gift of the Holy Spirit is described as a witness to the Gentiles themselves that they had indeed been granted cleansing and salvation. Thus to summarize the two accounts: the gift of the Holy Spirit was viewed as both a testimony to others, an external witness, and an internal testimony that “repentance unto life,” cleansing, salvation, had unmistakably occurred.
On the matter of the testimony to others, or external witness, one of the interesting features of the contemporary outpouring of God’s Spirit is the way in which it has caused many people in churches or denominations that have been long separated from and even antagonistic to one another to change their attitude. For example, many Protestants who received the gift of the Spirit in the early to mid 1960s were ill prepared to accept the movement of the Spirit among Roman Catholics that began in 196716 for the reason that they (the Protestants) were not at all sure any Catholics had experienced salvation. Then it began to happen among Catholics—exactly as among Protestants—and all the Protestants could do, like the apostles and brethren, was to glorify God and say, “Then to the Roman Catholics also God has granted repentance unto life!”
One other Scripture passage related to external witness is Hebrews 2:3-4: “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will.” Here again God Himself bears witness to the “great salvation” through the operation and activity of the Holy Spirit. Salvation which belongs to the inward and invisible realm is attested by the outward and visible—signs, wonders, miracles, various gifts of the Holy Spirit. This passage in Hebrews is somewhat different from Acts 11 and 15: the gift (or gifts) of the Holy Spirit is not spoken of as testimony to other Christians that God has granted salvation, but it is rather a testimony to those who have not experienced salvation that behind such divine work stands a living God who brings salvation.
Again, to return to the contemporary scene, it is striking that in many places the proclamation of the gospel of salvation is being given visible certification through “signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.” The word is preached, God “bears witness,” for example, through miracles of healing taking place, and the message of salvation comes through with powerful effectiveness.17 Indeed, in a day when people are bombarded by countless words and voices (in television, radio, printed page, etc.) and made innumerable offers, it is increasingly hard to hear the word about salvation and believe without some demonstration of power and reality. Is it really so? Is the message of an internal transformation valid? Does it actually happen? But when that message about invisible things is certified by visible demonstrations of the power of God, then credibility is vastly increased. The gospel truly must be, as is claimed, the power of God also unto salvation.
Now let us look further into the matter of the gift of the Spirit as internal witness. Paul writes to the Romans: “You have received the Spirit18 of sonship. When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:15-16). A beautiful effect of having “received the Spirit of sonship”—that is, the Spirit given to those who are sons by “adoption”19—is the internal witness that we are now the children of God. The assurance of being the children of God occurs in the cry of “Father! Father!”20 which breaks out with great force and meaning.21 It is the result of the Holy Spirit’s bearing witness with our spirit.
Here, it should be added, is something not unlike “speaking in (other) tongues.” As we have earlier noted,22 the immediate response to the gift of the Holy Spirit is praise, and this praise frequently takes the transcendent form of “tongues” as the Holy Spirit enables. “They … began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4) is quite similar to “When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness” (Rom. 8:15-16). Speaking with tongues and crying, “Abba! Father!” both signalize a tremendous outbreak from deep within; both represent cries of persons in a profound relationship with God; both are cries that come from the activity of the Holy Spirit who has been given; both are addressed not to men but to God.23
In this matter of internal witness we should also note the words of Paul in Galatians 4:6: “To prove that you are Sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying ‘Abba! Father!”24 This again is not an external witness, or proof, but a profoundly internal one, for the Spirit cries from within the heart. In this very cry25 of “Abba! Father!”—which is the cry through the Holy Spirit—we know we are the sons of God. For though it is a cry from within our hearts we are aware it does not originate from us: it is from the Holy Spirit.
One other quotation from Paul, earlier given, is now particularly relevant: “our gospel came to you [the Thessalonians] not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5). This “full conviction,” or “full assurance,”26 is obviously connected, in Paul’s statement, with the Holy Spirit; hence, it can be said to be an effect of the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Thessalonians not only heard the word of the gospel and believed but also received through the Holy Spirit the full assurance of their salvation.
Returning to our contemporary situation, it is highly significant that many people are experiencing afresh the inner witness, or confirmation, of sonship and salvation. What Paul speaks of in Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 4:6, and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 is becoming a profound fact. When the Holy Spirit is received, there is unmistakable inward assurance. Testimonies are frequently to be heard, such as, “I believed before, but now faith has taken on a deep inner certitude,” or “I never really had much assurance about matters connected with salvation, but now I know I belong to Christ.” It is a movement not from faith to sight but in faith to an assurance that was lacking before. It is a “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12).
It is important to recognize that not all believers have this assurance—but it is possible and highly desirable. In the case of the Thessalonians Paul could write, as we have seen, about how they had “full assurance” through the Holy Spirit from the day they heard the gospel preached. However, he also writes the Colossians of his desire that they may “have all the riches of the full assurance of understanding27 and the knowledge of God’s mystery” (Col. 2:2). Hence the “full assurance” which the Thessalonians had from the beginning Paul yearns for the Colossians to experience. We might also observe how the letter to the Hebrews expresses a similar desire for them to realize a “full assurance of hope”: “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance28 of hope until the end” (Heb. 6:11). Later in the same letter there is the encouraging statement: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance28 of faith” (Heb. 10:22). It is interesting to observe that, based on the three passages just quoted, there is the possibility of a full assurance of understanding, of hope, and of faith.29 But, to repeat, the important thing is to recognize that not all believers have such full assurance, that its realization is from and by the Holy Spirit, and that it is much to be desired. For in such a realization there is the inner certainty of being a child of God and an heir of all that is to come.30
We have quoted Paul a number of times on the matter of certainty and assurance. It is now in order to mention a few like references in the First Letter of John. The basic purpose of this letter is stated near the conclusion: “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5: 13).31 John is similarly concerned that faith becomes knowledge, assurance, certainty. And how does this knowledge come about? The answer: by the anointing of the Holy One, “You have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know” (1 John 2:20). The word for “anointing”32 is the same as that used in Acts 10:38—“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”—and refers likewise to the gift of the Holy Spirit. This they have received, and by this anointing they know all things33 pertaining to the spiritual life. As concrete illustration of this knowledge by the Holy Spirit, John also writes: “By this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us” (1 John 3:24), and “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit” (1 John 4:13). By the gift of the Holy Spirit “we know” all spiritual things: that we have eternal life, that Christ abides in us and we in Him, and whatever else pertains to matters of faith.
It should be emphasized that what is at stake here is not the reality itself but the knowledge of that reality. It is not, for example, that by the gift of the Holy Spirit Christ abides in us, but that through this gift we know He abides in us—and we in Him. It is not by the gift of the Spirit that we have eternal life but we know we have it. The Spirit who is given brings assurance and certainty into all such spiritual matters.
This leads us into other Scriptures which speak of the gift of the Holy Spirit as an “earnest” or “guarantee.” Two passages in 2 Corinthians contain this: “He [God] has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee”34 (1:22), and “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (5:5). “This very thing” refers to the life to come (“a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”—verse 1). The earnest or pledge of that future life is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit within, the life to come is already in some sense present—the “first installment”—so that there is a gilt-edged guarantee of what is beyond. Another and similar passage about the gift of the Spirit as earnest or guarantee is that wherein Paul writes: “[You] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).35 By the reception of this gift the Ephesians have been sealed, and the result described is that the Spirit is the earnest of the future inheritance in heaven.36
Once again to return to the contemporary scene: one of the highlights of the widespread movement of the Holy Spirit is the strong eschatological sense. There is, first, the sense of the presence of the future. The gift of the Spirit brings about a knowledge that through faith in Christ one has already passed from death into life, and that while on earth there is already citizenship in heaven. This world seems less like a preparation for the next than an anticipation of what is to come. One of the common expressions is “Glory!”37—a word that conveys with extraordinary effectiveness the sense of the ineffable presence of the future consummation. There is, in the second place, a strong sense of expectation about the coming of the Lord. On almost every hand there is the renewed cry of “Maranatha”—“Our Lord, come” (1 Cor. 16:22). This cry does not stem from a sense of His absence, or distance, but from a sense of His powerful presence. It is the Lord, vividly known through the Holy Spirit, hence in His spiritual reality, that His Spirit-filled people yearn to behold in His glorious body.38 It is the intense desire in the Spirit for the fulfillment of beholding Him face to face.39
Fourth, another effect of the gift of the Holy Spirit is boldness in speech and action. We have earlier noted that the purpose of the Spirit being given is for that enabling power whereby the witness to Jesus is carried forward in both word and deed. The gift of this power brings about extraordinary boldness and courage.
It is apparent in the book of Acts that an immediate effect of the gift of the Holy Spirit is decisiveness and confidence of speech, courage in the face of all opposition, and readiness to lay down one’s life for the sake of Christ. We may begin with Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, just after the disciples had been “filled with the Holy Spirit,” and can but be impressed with the confidence and directness of his words: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words” (Acts 2:14). So does Peter begin—and the note of confidence40 is apparent throughout. Nor in the climax does he mince words, proclaiming that “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified”(2:36). A like confidence and boldness is demonstrated even more on a later day when Peter and John, after the healing of a cripple, are brought before the Jewish council—the same that had called for Jesus’ death—and are asked, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Thereupon “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them … ‘be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified … this man is standing before you well’” (Acts 4:8-10). Then Peter adds that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12). The next verse begins: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John.” Here is boldness and courage indeed!
On another occasion, despite threats against them, the company of disciples pray: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). The result: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (4:31).
The close connection between being “filled with the Holy Spirit” and boldness is evident in each of the three preceding accounts. The immediate effect was a boldness—confidence, courage—of extraordinary character.
We note next the example of Stephen. Stephen, like the other men chosen to serve tables, was “full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3).41 He performed “great wonders and signs” and those who opposed him “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke” (6:8, 10). However, through secret instigation and false witnesses, Stephen is brought before the Jewish council. When asked by the high priest to give answer, Stephen proceeds with total courage and boldness, not hesitating at the climax of his testimony to say to the council: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit,” and “the Righteous One … you have now betrayed and murdered” (7:51-52). The result: members of the council are enraged, gnash their teeth against him; but he does not stop. Rather, Stephen “full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and … said, ‘Behold I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God’” (7:56). Such was the boldness of Stephen—to speak against the evil of his audience and to proclaim to them the glorified Lord—a boldness that held back nothing. Thereupon they stoned him to death, but he never flinched to the very end.
In this whole account of extraordinary and indomitable courage the fact of Stephen’s witness is set in the context of the fullness of the Spirit. Being so laden with the presence and power of God, Stephen spoke with total fearlessness—even to his martyrdom.
We turn now to the narrative about Saul of Tarsus—Paul the Apostle—and observe again the connection between the gift of the Spirit and boldness of speech and action. Saul is “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17) and “in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’” (9:20). The Jews in Damascus, amazed at first at Saul’s complete turnabout from persecutor of Christians to proclaimer of Christ, are soon seeking to kill him (9:23-24). Saul manages to escape their plots and goes to Jerusalem. There Barnabas, bringing him to the apostles, speaks of Saul’s conversion and how at Damascus he (Saul) had “preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (9:27). Soon thereafter Saul “went in and out among them at Jerusalem preaching boldly in the name of the Lord” (9:28). So zealous is Saul that his life is soon again at stake, and to save him, the brethren in Jerusalem take him down to Caesarea and ship him off to his home city of Tarsus.
Henceforward in all of Paul’s missionary travels the same boldness marks everything he did. For example, beginning his journeys with Barnabas, Paul encounters a magician at Cyprus who tries to block the Roman proconsul from hearing the gospel message. Thereupon “Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at [the magician] and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13:9-10). Then Paul boldly calls for temporary blindness to come upon the magician—and it happens. The result of Paul’s bold word and action: “the proconsul believed” (13:12). Other examples of such boldness are shown upon a visit to Antioch of Pisidia where, despite much Jewish reviling and opposition, “Paul and Barnabas42 spoke out boldly saying [that] ‘Since you … judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles’” (13:46). And immediately thereafter, despite persecution and expulsion, Paul and Barnabas go on to Iconium where “they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord” (14:3). Other examples could be added, but these should suffice to demonstrate again the marked connection between being filled with the Holy Spirit and boldness of speech and action.
Once again, to leave the scriptural record and to turn to the contemporary scene, we find much the same thing being exemplified. People who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit often demonstrate extraordinary boldness in the Lord. Particularly is this true immediately after the experience of being filled with the Spirit when they show little hesitation in proclaiming the word about Jesus anywhere and everywhere—and despite all opposition.43 Sometimes this bold witness dies down a bit, but wherever there is earnest prayer for its renewal at whatever the cost, there is a fresh filling with the Spirit and a new speaking the word with boldness.44 And it is to be added that this contemporary boldness is often not only of word but also of deed, as people do not hesitate to minister healing, deliverance and other blessings in the name of the Lord.
We might do well also to mention the words of Paul to young Timothy, his child in the faith: “Hence I remind you to rekindle45 the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). The gift of God, the Holy Spirit, may now and again need to be fanned to a flame, but whenever or wherever this happens, any spirit of timidity will again become the Spirit of boldness—the “spirit of power and love and self-control.” Boldness in the gospel proclamation comes from the gift of God; so, should it wane, by the rekindling of the gift there will again be courageous witness.46
The boldness brought about by the Holy Spirit is a boldness unto death. It is a boldness, a courage, that lacking all shame and hesitation can say with the Apostle Paul: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage47 now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20). It is a boldness that does not exclude martyrdom.
Finally, and climactically, one of the great effects of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the deepening of fellowship. When the Spirit is given, both individual and group are so profoundly united as to create a fellowship of great love, sharing, community. It is the “koinonia”48 of the Holy Spirit.
On reviewing the account of what happened in the early church, there is an unmistakable stress on community. Before the Day of Pentecost, as we have noted, the disciples were “with one accord” (Acts 1:14) in prayer and when the day arrived they were “all together in one place” (2:1). The sense of unity is obviously intensified with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4). Thereafter when Peter delivers his sermon it is not simply as an individual spokesman, but “standing with the eleven” (2:14) he addresses the crowd. A new and transcending koinonia has been brought about by the Holy Spirit.
Next, when some three thousand persons hear the word, are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,49 the text immediately reads: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NASB). Here is a tremendous sense of togetherness—in study, breaking bread, prayer—that the Holy Spirit had brought about. One of the key terms is “fellowship,” or “koinonia”; and the fact that they devote themselves to koinonia signifies their profound new commitment to one another.
This commitment to one another is shown concretely in what follows: “all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have50 need” (2:44-45, NASB). This beautiful spirit of sharing and fellowship is shown also in the next statement: “And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together” (2:46, NASB). They sold property and possessions wherever there was need; they opened their homes to one another: thus were all things in common.51
The number of disciples now increases to about five thousand (Acts 4:4). But the spirit of unity only deepens. Two examples follow: first, after Peter and John report back to the company the threats of the Jewish council, the disciples “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24, KJV). With one voice52 and with complete unanimity—one accord53—they pray to God for boldness to continue to witness while the Lord heals and performs signs and wonders. Second, just following this prayer, wherein they are “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:31), their unity is powerfully described: “Now the company [or ‘multitude’]54 of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one [was saying]55 that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). Again, the commonality of possessions is expressed, but this time against the background of an intense unity in spirit: one heart and soul. It would be hard to imagine a more graphic or more extraordinary statement of unity than this—in that many thousands of people are involved.
A beautiful expression follows: “great grace was upon them all” (4:33). And this great grace is demonstrated further: “For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of lands or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need” (4:34-35, NASB). While the language does not imply that people sold everything they had (only lands and houses are mentioned), it does suggest a readiness to commit their most valuable possessions.56 Nor is this a profligate selling of properties—as if there were some special virtue in getting rid of earthly things57—but a selling for the purpose of bringing the proceeds to the apostles58 that every need might be met.
It is evident then that the Spirit-filled community of over five thousand was truly a koinonia of the Holy Spirit. It was a community united in prayer, in witness, and in fellowship. When any potential source of disruption might come in—such as the dishonesty of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) and the murmuring of certain Hellenists59 (Acts 6:1-6)—the matter was promptly dealt with, and the koinonia maintained. The result: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
Now let us seek to summarize a few things. While the disciples were all Jews at this stage, they were from across the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world,60 they were Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking, they were men and women, they were laymen and priests, they were apostles and brethren in general: an immense variety of backgrounds and former loyalties, but now all were in one accord. They studied together, prayed together, broke bread together. They went to the temple unitedly, and also from house to house. Their commitment to one another was so intense that they no longer were claiming possessions as their own, but were selling and sharing wherever there was need. They were of one heart and one soul—and great grace was manifest in all they did. In every way it was the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.
It might be added that their community life was one of constant praise to God and of great favor among the people. The earliest account mentions their “praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). Their joy in the Lord and liberality of Spirit were very attractive—so much so that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (2:47also). But along with this there was growth of opposition among the religious leaders and ever increasing threats and persecution. Finally, with the killing of Stephen a “great persecution”61 began, and all the disciples, except for the apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. This by no means signified any less praise of God, joy in the Lord, or favor with the people in general, but it did mean that no longer could they attend the Temple together and share as a total body in one place. Still, wherever they went, and whatever the opposition, they continued to be one in Christ—the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.
Now it would be too much to say, or suggest, that there was invariable harmony or unity thereafter. For with the distance from Jerusalem, no longer the daily presence of the apostles, and most of all the dimming of intensity of the Spirit’s presence, some disharmony and disunity were sure to come about. Factions and party spirit would appear in churches here and there. However, insofar as this happened, they were no longer really “spiritual people,”62 no longer flowing in the Spirit of Christ, no longer what the Lord intended. Still, if they could remember who they were and be renewed in Spirit, once more they would be truly the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.
Along this line Paul writes to the Ephesians that they should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), and he concludes his Second Letter to the Corinthians with the prayer: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship [koinonia] of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (13:14). This unity which has come from the Spirit, this koinonia which the Spirit has brought about—such is to be zealously maintained and earnestly prayed for. These words of Paul are in line also with the great concern of Jesus expressed in the last prayer for his disciples “that they may all be one … I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one” (John 17:21, 23). It is in the unity of the Spirit that such oneness is a reality.
Now it is time to return to the contemporary situation. What we have seen in our own day in the movement of the Holy Spirit is the renewal of fellowship in depth. People have found themselves drawn together in a profound unity of worship, community, study and witness: the koinonia of the Holy Spirit. Such fellowship goes so much deeper than anything they had ever known, that they continually marvel at what God has done.
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit there has been a personal renewal of unmistakable quality, but at the same time it has been a community renewal of extraordinary character. People have been brought by the Spirit into such a mutual relationship that they know they belong to one another. It is not as if there were no sense of community before, but this has a richer quality. Now with a fresh enthusiasm and joy in the Lord they have an intense desire to be together, to enjoy one another’s company, to hear what God has to say through a brother or sister, to minister to one another, to share whenever there is need. So full of the Lord’s presence is the gathering of the community that nothing else is comparable to it; and the time spent with one another seems as no time at all. Frequency of gathering together, extended hours of meeting, going from house to house for prayer and fellowship: all are a part of the present renewal.
Further, people caught up in the renewal of the Spirit come from a multiplicity of backgrounds. Nations around the world, denominations from across Christendom, people of many races, ages, and cultures—all are represented in the present renewal. While some fellowships are more limited nationally, denominationally, age-wise and so on, the genius of the movement is clearly the way it essentially transcends all ordinary groupings. It is not unusual to find Protestants of many kinds, Roman Catholics,63 Eastern Orthodox, and people formerly with no church background, all together in the same koinonia of the Holy Spirit. This, however, is not a unity based on a lowest common denominator of religious belief, but on the fact that all have been brought by the Spirit into a profound and transforming relationship with one another.
As a result of this, prayer and praise fellowships, renewal communities, and transdenominational Christian centers have developed in many parts of the world. Some are communities of shared goods and properties, of a daily common life together. Some fellowships exist within the more traditional church structures and seek to exercise a renewing influence, others exist alongside (para-congregational), or function totally separate therefrom. But wherever such communities are found, it is essentially the same spirit of praise, fellowship, witness and concern.64
The reaction, it might be added, from those observing is often either one of attraction or opposition. Some find themselves strongly moved by the sight of people praising the Lord, meeting together many hours in lively prayer and expectation, showing great concern for one another. They have yearned for such a deeper fellowship, and want to become a part. Many have grown weary with traditional forms and seemingly lifeless patterns of religious activity, and here they sense life, power, vitality. Thus do persons in the renewal find favor (cf. Acts 2:47) with people around, and many are added to their number. But others manifest opposition to the movement. Sometimes this comes from the world at large that has little use for anything deeply religious and spiritual, but most often it comes from within an established church order. The renewal, in this case, is viewed with suspicion, even as a threat to some, and attitudes vary from cautious tolerance to strong opposition. These differing reactions—from attraction to repulsion—suggest that something is occurring in the fellowship of the Spirit of unusual significance for the whole church.
It seems quite possible that this renewal in the Spirit is the most profound ecumenical development of today. This development has witnessed many attempts to bring churches together, to get beyond the scandal of division, and to recover that oneness which the church at least verbally affirms. And there have been varying degrees of success: formations of councils, mergers of some churches and surely many prayers for unity. Indeed, there is a growing sense that division is intolerable, that it is a huge obstacle to faith, and that Jesus’ prayer that “they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (John 17:21) must somehow find an answer. Such is the growing ecumenical concern: and its solution, we affirm again, is to be found only in and through the renewal of the Holy Spirit.65 As people, as churches, as individuals are profoundly renewed by the Holy Spirit the whole situation is transformed from a search after unity to its realization.
Surely hazards mark the way. For example, people renewed in the Spirit may allow a party spirit to set in, thus draw back into denominational enclaves or groups that no longer fellowship with others, or begin to emphasize certain minor doctrinal points to such a degree that the unity of the Spirit is increasingly broken. Sometimes spiritually renewed groups set themselves apart from other groups, and follow a particular leader or teaching, no longer recognizing the unity the Spirit has brought about. Indeed, there are hazards—and situations that need repentance and correction. However, the overarching fact is that through the renewal of the Spirit there is a new and profound gift of unity that alone can bring into fulfillment the genuine oneness of the body of Christ. When this is realized afresh, and is acted upon accordingly, the prayer of the Lord may find its ultimate fulfillment.
It would seem appropriate to conclude with the words of Paul that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). For truly when through the gift of the Holy Spirit the love of God is shed abroad in the hearts of all, then there is a profound creation of fellowship, sharing and unity with one another. Through such God-given love we become the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.
3. "Acts of the Apostles" is a title frequently given to the book. The title is doubly misleading: first, the book of Acts while mostly containing narrations about apostolic activity also relates the acts of "deacons" such as Stephen (Acts 6 and 7) and Philip (8), of churches such as at Antioch and Jerusalem (see above), of teachers such as Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:24-28) and of a prophet such as Agabus (Acts 11:28 and 21:10-11); second, the focus of the title is off center, for the main feature is not the acts of the apostles or any other believers but the acts of the Holy Spirit, or the acts of the exalted Lord through the Holy Spirit, the continuation of "all that Jesus began to do and teach" (Acts 1:1) in His earthly life.
4. "Death of God" terminology used by Nietzsche, and taken up in the mid-sixties by so-called "death of God" theologians, says far more about the human than the divine condition. For all practical purposes God is dead when there is utterly no sense of His living reality.
5. "In an era that cries, 'God is dead,' and questions whether 'Christianity' has a future, the charismatic renewal comes as a vigorous affirmation that God is indeed a living God, and that Jesus Christ is active in the world with sovereign power." So begins Pentecost in the Modern World (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1972) by Edward D. O'Connor, C.S.C.
6. In his autobiography, Nine O'Clock in the Morning, Dennis Bennett describes the sense of Presence that came to him just following his receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit: "The Presence of God that I had so clearly seen in earlier days to be the real reason for living, suddenly enveloped me again after the many, many years of dryness. Never had I experienced God's presence in such reality as now. It might have frightened me, except that I recognized that this was the same Presence of the Lord that I had sensed when I first accepted Jesus …only the intensity and reality of my present experience was far greater than anything I had believed possible. If those earlier experiences were like flashbulbs this was as if someone had suddenly turned on the floodlights! The reality of God was something that I felt all the way through" (p. 24). Here, verily, is the answer to "the death of God!"
7. KJV. The RSV translates the text as "unutterable and exalted joy."
9. The joy of Jesus may be observed, for example, upon the return of seventy disciples from a successful missionary journey: "In that same hour he rejoiced ['rejoiced greatly' or 'exulted'—egalliasato] in the Holy Spirit" (Luke 10:21). Here is fullness of joy in (or "by") the Holy Spirit—which the disciples also were to experience later.
10. E.g., the women, told that Jesus was risen, "departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy (charas megales) …" (Matthew 28:8). Later Jesus appeared to the larger group who experienced "joy and …marveling" (charas kai thaumazonton) (Luke 24:41 NAS).
12. We may recall (see chapter 6, fn. 9) that the Acts 8:39 passage in a number of early manuscripts reads: "And when they came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit fell upon the eunuch and an angel of the Lord caught up Philip …" The point of this reading, as we before observed, is undoubtedly to emphasize that the eunuch's believing and baptism were followed by the gift of the Spirit. Accordingly, the rejoicing of the eunuch springs out of his experience of the Holy Spirit. In regard to the Acts 16:34 passage, nothing is said directly about the Holy Spirit. However, since once again the rejoicing—or great rejoicing—is closely connected with faith and baptism, the implication of the text is quite likely that of the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
13. Earlier we quoted the words of Larry Tomczak about his baptism in the Holy Spirit: "I felt the rapturous and exultant joy of the Lord surging through me. … Then, just at the right moment words began to flow from my heart" (supra. chap. 3, fn. 4). Then Tomczak adds: "At the same time, like a mountain stream—pure, sparkling, cool, crystal clear—living joy began to flow upward and outward through my entire being." His concluding words: "Jesus Christ touched me that night, and, oh, the joy that filled my soul. … I opened the door and seemed to float through it. Looking up at the cool, crisp, early morning sky, I grinned foolishly, drunk for joy" (Clap Your Hand, pp. 112-13). Also see the moving life story by Sister Mary Bernard, I Leap for Joy (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1974).
14 The RSV reading “when we believed” as earlier noted (Chapter 5, fn. 10) is misleading. “Having believed” or “believing” is preferable.
15 Such cleansing of the heart therefore obviated the necessity of circumcision. Or, to put it a bit differently, what really counted was not circumcision of the flesh but circumcision of the heart. And God Himself had performed the operation!
16 For Roman Catholic beginnings see The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church by Edward D. O’Connor. Also see Catholic Pentecostals, which contains much of the story.
17 For example, the Kathryn Kuhlman meetings in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and elsewhere during the 1960s and seventies were notable examples of how the teaching of the gospel was certified by the witness of healing. The climax of the meeting was not the various manifestations that occurred but the call to salvation. When that call went forth, amid the almost overwhelming signs of God’s powerful presence, great numbers of people would come forward to receive salvation. See Kathryn Kuhlman, God Can Do It Again (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971), especially “Miracles Do Happen,” pp. 7-26.
18 RSV has “spirit.” Upper case seems preferable (as in KJV).
19 The Greek word translated in the RSV as “sonship” is huiothesias, literally “adoption” (as in KJV). Believers are “sons of God by adoption” (unlike Jesus Christ who is eternally the Son of God), and thereby can address God as “Father.”
20 The biblical expression is “abba! ho patēr!”“Abba” is an Aramaic word that expresses an intimate family relationship of child to father. In English the closest similarity might be “daddy” or “dad.” However, since there are some connotations of this common family term that seem not altogether fitting in relationship to God, it is probably best to translate simply as “Father! Father!” while bearing in mind the intimacy of this new relationship.
21 The word for “cry,” krazomen, means “to cry out loudly.” Krazomen “denotes the loud irrepressible cry with which the consciousness of sonship breaks from the Christian heart” (Expositor’s Greek Testament, Commentary on Romans, in loco).
22 See Chapter 3, supra.
23 This has been noticed, supra, in Chapter 3. Also the words of Paul about the operation of tongues in the Christian life are relevant: “One who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God” (1 Cor. 14:2). It might be added that in the life of prayer speaking in tongues is a kind of prayer language closely related to the language of “Abba! Father!” Both “another tongue” and the “mother tongue” are beautiful expressions of power and intimacy.
24 New English Bible. “To prove that,” the NEB translation for hoti is, I believe, preferable to “because” (in RSV and many other translations). Paul is speaking demonstratively—“to demonstrate that,” as “proof of that”—rather than causally. (See also Cambridge Greek Testament [Cambridge University Press, 1914], Commentary on Galatians, in loco: “‘hoti’is demonstrative ‘But as proof that,’ rather than strictly causal.”)
25 The Greek word is krazon. See supra, fn. 21.
26 The Greek term is plērophoria pollē, literally “much full assurance.”
27 RSV reads: “assured understanding” instead of “full assurance of understanding.” However the Greek expression is plērophorias tēs suneseōs. The word plērophoria is the same that Paul uses in writing to the Thessalonians (see fn. supra).
28 The Greek word for “full assurance” in both Hebrews 6 and 10 is likewise plērophoria.
29 According to the Westminster Confession of Faith there is the possibility of “an infallible assurance of faith” which is “founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God … [however] this infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it” (Chapter XVIII, “Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation,” Sections 2 and 3). See Philip Schaff. The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1877), Vol. III, “The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647,” p. 638.
30 Another obvious benefit of “full assurance” is the strength it gives to Christian witness. If “I know whom I have believed,” if there is the continuing inner witness of the Holy Spirit to my being God’s child, if this full assurance relates to understanding, hope and faith, then my witness to the gospel stems from a great inner fortitude and certainty. There is nothing quite so convincing as the witness that stems out of complete certainty—and yet not one’s own certainty but that which the Holy Spirit constantly renews! (By such “infallible assurance,” according to the Westminster Confession of Faith, a person’s heart is “enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience” Chapter XVIII, Section 3.)
31 This may be compared with the Gospel of John where the purpose is likewise stated near the end: “These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The Gospel intends faith and salvation; the Letter, written to those who have already experienced such, intends knowledge and assurance.
32 chrisma in 1 John; echrisen in Acts.
33 The “you all know” of 1 John 2:20 is oidate pantes which could be translated ‘you know all” (similarly KJV—“ye know all things”).
34 The Greek word for “guarantee” is arrabōna. The gift of the Spirit serves as an “earnest" (KJV)—a “first installment,” a “down payment,” a “pledge.” Thus a “guarantee.” Incidentally the “seal” referred to, as was mentioned earlier (Chapter 4, fn. 2 and 6), suggests dedication or consecration—sealing in the sense of “endowment of power.”
35 We discussed a part of this statement (down to “the promised Holy Spirit”) in Chapter 5.
36 I recently came across the remarkable sermons of Thomas Goodwin, seventeenth-century Calvinist divine, on the first chapter of Ephesians: The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D., Vol. I, Containing an Exposition of the First Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians (Edinburgh: James Nichol, M.DCCC.LXI.). In his sermon on Eph. 1: 13-14, he writes: “Serve your God day and night faithfully, walk humbly; there is a promise of the Holy Ghost to come and fill your hearts with joy unspeakable and glorious, to seal you up to the day of redemption. Sue [seek] this promise out, wait for it, rest not in believing only, rest not in assurance by graces only; there is a further assurance to be had. It was the last legacy Christ left upon earth … the promise of the Father” (p. 248).Though I would hesitate to identify directly “the promise of the Holy Ghost” with “sealing up to the day of salvation,” I believe Goodwin is correct in recognizing that the sealing of the Spirit is connected with the gift of the Spirit, and therefore belongs to those who receive the promised Holy Spirit. Goodwin, accordingly, in this sense is an extraordinary precursor of the contemporary spiritual renewal. For more on Thomas Goodwin’s view, see the book by J.A. Schep, Spirit Baptism and Tongue Speaking (London: The Fountain Trust, 1970), pp. 59-63.
37 Peter speaks about being “a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed” (1 Pet. 5:1). Already we may share in that coming glory.
38 Paul speaks of “his glorious body,” or “the body of his glory,” in Philippians 3:2 1.
39 Emil Brunner, writing about the Church, says: “The more powerfully life in the Spirit of God is present in it, the more urgent is its expectation of the Coming of Jesus Christ; so that the fullness of the possession of the Spirit and the urgency of expectation are always found together, as they were in the primitive community.” The Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith, and the Consummation: Dogmatics. Vol. III (Philadelphia Westminster Press, 1960), p. 400.
40 E.g., “Brethren, I may say to you confidently” (Acts 2:29). The Greek word for confidently is parrēsia (meta parrēsias—“with confidence”), the same word that is often translated “boldly” (see below).
41 Specifically, Stephen is called "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).
42 Barnabas, like Paul, was a man “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Recall the earlier description in Acts 11:24: “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Hence, Barnabas’ boldness came out of the same fullness of God’s presence and power.
43 The author recalls, as one instance among many, the picture of a university professor recently filled with the Holy Spirit shortly thereafter witnessing boldly about Jesus on his own university campus to student and faculty alike—indeed, all who would hear. Ridicule, opposition—and finally expulsion from his professorship—resulted. But, like Paul, he continued to carry on. Another example: students at the author’s school are often found on the streets, in the parks, on the beaches, boldly and publicly testifying of the Lord. Opposition—when it occurs—only seems to make them all the more eager to witness!
44 As in the case of the disciples in Acts 4:29-31 who prayed for boldness and again (as at Pentecost) were “filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”
45 The Greek word is anazōpurein—to “kindle up,” to “fan to a flame.” The gift is always there but it may be like embers that can be fanned to a flame.
46 Paul proceeds to say to Timothy: “Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8). These words suggest that Timothy, like many others who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, may have moments when boldness fails and shame about testifying sets in, but the gift is there only needing to bestirred up, fanned to aflame, and a fresh boldness and courage will again be manifest. It is important, accordingly, to emphasize that the fact of receiving the Holy Spirit is essential to a genuine boldness of witness, but there is nothing automatic about such witness. There can be a quenching of the Spirit (cf. 1 Thess. 5:19—“Do not quench the Spirit”). But where there is a stirring up of the Spirit with an earnest desire to be courageous in the gospel, boldness for the Lord is sure to become again manifest.
47 The Greek for “full courage” is pasē parrēsia—literally “all boldness” (as in KJV).
48 The Greek word koinōnia denotes “participation,” “fellowship,” “sharing.” Because of the richness of meaning in the Greek word, a single translation often seems inadequate. Thus many today are simply making use of the Greek term.
49 For discussion of their receiving the Spirit, see Chapter 6
50 Imperfect tense for all three verbs (selling, sharing, have); thus they “were selling” and “were sharing” as anyone “was having” need. According to the Expositor’s Greek Testament, “the [imperfect] tense may express an action which is done often and continuously without being done universally or extending to a complete accomplishment” (commentary on Acts 2:45). Thus it would be a mistake to assume necessarily that all sold their property and shared. Rather the point is that selling and sharing were constantly going on in relation to any who had need.
51 It would be a mistake to see in this a so-called Christian communism. No one is forced to give up anything; indeed, there is voluntary sharing as the Spirit leads and as there is need. There is no collective ownership of goods but a recognition through the Spirit that what each had was for the good of all.
52 The word in Greek is phōnēn in the singular (hence, not “voices” as in RSV, NASB).
53 The Greek word is homothumadon. “With one accord” is a better translation than “together” (as in RSV).
54 As in KJV. The Greek word is plēthous.
55 The literal Greek rendering for elegen, imperfect tense. See fn. 50, supra.
56 Barnabas—later described as “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:24)—is also mentioned as one who sold a piece of property, a field, and brought the money to the apostles (Acts 4:36-37).
57 There is no suggestion that ownership of goods is wrong, and thus does not belong in the Spirit-filled community. There is no particular virtue ascribed here to selling what one has and perhaps entering upon a life of poverty (as is the case frequently in monastic communities). The whole point is that under the impact of the fullness of the Spirit (5:31), there was such “great grace” upon them that they gladly shared everything and gave of anything that might help those in need.
58 Another evidence that there was no required selling of property and bringing the proceeds to the apostles is found in the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira that follows. They sold a piece of property, kept back some of the proceeds, but pretended to be giving the whole amount (Acts 5:1-11). Peter speaks severely first to Ananias. “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” (5:3). Then Peter makes clear that the sin was neither in owning the property nor in selling and disposing as Ananias might choose—“While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?” (5:4). The sin—a huge one directed against the Holy Spirit who pervaded the community—was in the pretense of giving all. (Incidentally, this first recorded sin in the koinonia of the Holy Spirit brought sudden physical death to both Ananias and Sapphira [Acts 5:5, 10] even as the first sin in Eden brought spiritual death to Adam and Eve.)
59 On the matter of Ananias and Sapphira see preceding footnote. The “Hellenists” were non-Palestinian, Greek-speaking Jews who had become Christians. A murmuring arose because of some neglect of their widows in the daily serving of food. It was promptly taken care of by the appointment of seven men (including Stephen and Philip) to be in charge of this duty.
60 It is to be recalled that the thousands to whom Peter preached on the day of Pentecost were “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). Thereafter many nations and languages are mentioned, all the way from Mesopotamia to Libya, from Asia (Minor) to Rome (Acts 2:9-11).
61 See Acts 8:1.
62 For example, Paul later writes to the Christian disciples in Corinth. that he was not really able to speak to them as “spiritual people” (pneumatikois), but as “fleshly” (sarkinois)because there was “jealousy and strife” among them (1 Cor. 3:1, 3). It had become “party spirit”—“I belong to Paul,” or “Peter,” or “Apollos”—no longer the unity of the Spirit with which they had first begun (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
63 The oneness in the Spirit which the Lord has created among Catholics and Protestants through the baptism in the Spirit is a precious miracle of grace in our day. I do not believe we have begun to grasp the significance of this breakthrough in the unfolding of God’s plan for His people. The sharing of a faith common to us all, the growth in mutual trust and understanding in areas of cultural and doctrinal differences, the growing ability to pray and worship together genuinely while maintaining our integrity—all this is creating a new, strong, bold, witness to the reality and saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” So writes Kevin Ranaghan in As the Spirit Leads Us, in an article entitled “Catholics and Pentecostals Meet in the Spirit,” p. 144.
64 For a good study of Christian community see Stephen B. Clark, Building Christian Communities: Strategy for Renewing the Church (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1972).
65 Dr. John A. Mackay, former president of Princeton Theological Seminary, puts it forcefully: “What is known as the charismatic movement—a movement marked by spiritual enthusiasm and special gifts and which crosses all boundaries of culture, race, age, and church tradition—is profoundly significant….Because ‘no heart is pure that is not passionate and no virtue is safe that is not enthusiastic,’ the charismatic movement of today is the chief hope of the ecumenical tomorrow” (World Vision Magazine,April, 1970, article entitled “Oneness in the Body—Focus for the Future”). James W. Jones, Episcopal clergyman, analyzes it thus: “Structural ecumenism which does not grow out of a genuine ecumenical life will produce only empty wineskins, just as patterns of renewal that do not grow out of a renewed life will themselves have no vitality. The charismatic movement is the ecumenical movement, not because it is creating structural alignments (it isn’t), but because it is bringing into being a new sense of the common life of the people of God” (Filled with New Wine: The Charismatic Renewal of the Church [New York: Harper and Row, 1974], p. 135).
Rodman Williams, Ph.D., was a Professor of Renewal Theology Emeritus at Regent University School of Divinity. Author of numerous books, he is perhaps best known for his three volume Renewal Theology (Zondervan, 1996).
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today by J. Rodman Williams, was published in 1980 by Logos International.
Content Copyright ©1996 by J. Rodman Williams, Ph.D.